The Art of Charles Smith

Grandma, 1999. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of the Kohler Foundation.

January 31, 2005 – June 12, 2005
Anacostia Community Museum1901 Fort Place, SE
Washington, DC
Main Gallery

Self-taught artist Charles Smith creates life-sized figures out of concrete and found objects such as railroad ties and discarded furniture. His subject matter is often as heavy as his materials, including enslavement and the murders of James Byrd, Jr. and Tupac Shakur. In the artist’s own words, his “basic mission is to educate people about the extraction of Africans from Africa and about the history of black people here in the United States of America.” He memorializes the experiences of ordinary people and also better known trailblazers such as A. Philip Randolph and Randall Robinson. Smith’s sculptures also show levity. An incandescent light bulb becomes the torch for the Statue of Liberty-like Grandma, and the lighthearted Girl at the Beach plays in the sun.

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